The movie bug is there to bite and people from various backgrounds drop into this field of glamor with varied interests. Meet Kavita Kulkarni, a Belgaumite and a computer science engineer with over 17 years of finance and fund management experience and four years in executing film and TV projects in the Indian entertainment industry.
She has just finished her first movie production, “ Amit Sahni Ki List” which is a romantic comedy and stars Vir Das, Vega Tamotia, Kavi Shastri, and Anindita Nayar. It is slated to release on July 18, 2014. The film is produced by Pyxis Pictures, a film production company co-owned by Tina Nagpaul & Kavita Kulkarni and is directed by Ajay Bhuyan. Oscar-winner Resul Pookutty has done sound design for the film, and the fresh music has been scored by various bands and artistes like Raghu Dixit, Alien Chutney, and Palash Mucchal. The film just made it to the DNA list of top 9 films to watch out for in 2014.
Team AAB caught up with Kavita and her journey into Bollywood –
AAB —- Tell us something about your self?
Kavita Kulkarni ————> I was born and principally brought up in Belgaum. I mean principally as I spent the first 11 years of my life in Rajasthan. My dad is a civil engineer from IIT Powai, who was working for Govt of Rajasthan in the irrigation department. I have been in Belgaum since the 6th grade. Studied in Divine Providence School, then GSS and did my engineering in Computer Science from Gogte Institute of Technology. Later I completed my MBA in Finance from New York University.
AAB —– Tell us more about your professional background?
Kavita Kulkarni ————>I have lived in New York for 12 years and after the first 4 years as a computer programmer, have worked mainly as a banker in New York with Citibank, HSBC Bank and a US based Hedge fund. I returned to India in 2007 as the Chief Operating Officer for a Hedge Fund called Eight Capital and then got bit by the entrepreneurial bug. I quit my job in 2009 to start a Microfinance company and currently am the Managing Director of Shalmala Finance Ltd.(www.shalmala.com) based out of Sirsi, Karnataka. We mainly do micro loans for our 15,000 members in coastal Karnataka region.
AAB —- How did you enter into movie production from Financing?
Kavita Kulkarni ————> In 2010 I joined a friend Tina Nagpaul to start a film and television production company called Pyxis Pictures based out of Mumbai. Tina and I knew each other from New York where we were part of a music group called Surbahaar, that was a group of volunteers who performed music shows to raise money for schools in India.
Tina is very passionate about film-making. She is a banker in her past life as well. She was also working with Citibank in New York and then did a film-making course from NYU and returned to India in 2003 to become a filmmaker. She worked on films like Amu, My brother Nikhil, Chittagong etc.
We set up Pyxis Pictures to make intelligent, content based films and to also provide a platform for new talent. We have just finished our first film called ‘Amit Sahni Ki List’ starring comedian Vir Das in the lead. This film is releasing on July 18th 2014 and has been chosen as one of the top 9 films to watch in 2014 by DNA.
We have also produced a travel reality TV series that we are in talks with US networks for distribution. You can read more about our other projects on our website www.pyxispictures.com.
AAB —– So this is your first commercial production?
Kavita Kulkarni ————> Yes this is our first commercial film project. It is a romantic comedy. We spent almost a year reading scores of scripts and finally found a very cute script titled ‘Amit Sahni Ki List’, which was the story of a successful young man looking to marry the perfect girl. And as we all know, perfection can be a difficult thing to find, and in the film Amit Sahni, goes through numerous girls and various ups and downs trying to find the perfect mate. It was a very funny and relate-able story. Both Tina and I knew scores of such young people and felt it would be a fun movie to make.
AAB —– Which genre of movies do you like ?
Kavita Kulkarni ————> We are not partial to any particular genre. We look for well written scripts that can tell a story that entertains as well as touches the hearts. But for the next project, we are keen to do an action or a crime drama.
AAB —– What is the budget of the movie and who is distributing it ?
Kavita Kulkarni ————> The production budget of the film is about Rs. 5 Crores and almost an equal amount for marketing. We are distributing the film ourselves. We raised the money from friends and colleagues and found a lot of support from well wishers that has made the process a lot of fun.
AAB —- Tell us about your experience as a producer?
Kavita Kulkarni ————> The film industry gives us an opportunity to meet a lot of very interesting and creative people with very interesting points of view and talent that can be amazing. The good experience for us was that we found a lot of support within the industry, even as outsiders. Lots of senior film-makers were very forthcoming with feedback and guidance. We found that we could apply discipline from our corporate lives to film-making and succeeded in completing our shoot within time and budget.
The one negative aspect was the process of filming in Mumbai. Our entire film was shot in Mumbai and it was an extremely difficult process. There are numerous permissions required – police, BMC, coast guard, locations, union cards, all of which are very expensive (for e.g. just the BMC and police permissions can add upto Rs. 85,000 per day). To add to that, despite having the requisite permissions, criminal elements and political outfits arrive to disrupt a shoot and demand huge payments. Due to this, a lot of production companies are now preferring to shoot their films outside of Mumbai and it is a great pity, as this city is the heart of the Hindi film industry. We sincerely hope things improve or for our next films we will be forced to leave Mumbai as well. We could not help but contrast this with New York, where filming just requires a single permission, no fees or payments and full co-operation from the police.
AAB —– So will the movie be released in Belgaum on the same day as Mumbai?
Kavita Kulkarni ————> Absolutely! I have in fact been in discussion with our distributors and ensured the film will be released in all the key theaters in Belgaum. This is a film that will appeal to all youngsters and Belgaum being a college city, I expect the film to do very well here.
AAB —-Coming from a small city like Belgaum, did it help you in your career or hinder it?
Kavita Kulkarni ————> I believe success in a career or life is all about our attitude. Belgaum is a small city but with a cosmopolitan outlook. I did not at any point feel any hindrance or lack of confidence for being a resident of a small city. My first job after my engineering was in Mumbai and I think I fit right in and never looked back. Yes I do however think that the exposure to more career options was perhaps lacking during my time. I don’t think film-making would have even occurred to me as an option in college;) But I don’t see that problem with the current generation.
AAB —– Your tips to both boys and girls from Belgaum on how to approach the film industry?
Kavita Kulkarni ————> If you have the talent, then the way into the film industry is much easier today than it was a couple of decades ago. There are numerous new production companies like ours and many more people making small budget films. Try and contact the right talent management agency and also be willing to work hard and do small roles to get a foothold. In Hollywood there is a process of earning points where each actor can do numerous small roles and build up their points that can help them in getting recognition and bigger roles. In contrast what we found while casting for our film was that a lot of the new girls only wanted the main part and did not want to do the smaller parts even though they were interesting and would have allowed them to showcase their talent.
AAB —- Any upcoming projects ?
Kavita Kulkarni ————> We have 2-3 film scripts in consideration. We have one TV show that will be on air in 2015 and are developing 2 more shows for youth channels like Channel V. We are also doing some ad films and corporate films.
AAB —– What is the best thing you like about Belgaum?
Kavita Kulkarni ————> The sense of belonging. I grew up in Rajasthan and have lived in Mumbai and New York for many years, yet home and heart is always in Belgaum. I believe you can take a person out of Belgaum but cannot take Belgaum out of that person!
AAB ——What are your thoughts on this website?
Kavita Kulkarni ————> I have been your fan since you launched. I find it the most effective way of keeping up with the daily happenings in the city and it lets me feel connected from all over the world.